In 2009, eight Dutch universities decided to join forces in a national research school for Islamic studies: the Netherlands Interuniversity School for Islamic Studies (NISIS), one which was officially established on 1 January 2010. In 2013 Maastricht University joined the partnership. As such, NISIS constitutes the first collaboration of nine universities in the history of Dutch scholarship in Islamic studies.
NISIS is the result of the initial eight board members’ decision to collaborate in their commitment to the study of Islam and Muslim societies after the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM), a research institute funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in which four Dutch universities (University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University, Radboud University and Leiden University) participated, was closed in 2009.
All scholars collaborating within NISIS share an understanding of Islam as a historical and socio- cultural phenomenon. This approach is part of an academic tradition of more than two centuries in which a historical-critical approach, which concentrates on the study of texts, has been fused with a social science perspective. This approach does not essentialise Islam as a force in itself, but stresses human agency through ideas and practices. It also emphasises the importance to study Islam in a broad context as a cultural practice, not limited to a narrow definition of Islam as a religion. This non-normative approach is not only most productive in scholarly terms, but also helps to answer major questions arising in society and policy-making, and might be of great value for inter-Muslim debates as well.
Traditionally the study of Islam was rooted in history and philology, an approach to which the Netherlands has contributed considerably. Over the last four decades Dutch academia has become quite strong in the anthropological study of Muslim societies as well. NISIS sees it as one of its main objectives to combine both approaches, and to overcome misleading dichotomies. During the past years NISIS has addressed several of these issues by presenting state of the art scholarship at an international level. By bringing together scholars from the Netherlands with colleagues from all over the world NISIS explores new directions rooted in this strong European tradition.
NISIS has been recognised as a national research school by the Deans of the Faculties of Arts and Humanities (DLG - landelijk overleg van de decanen van de faculteiten Letteren en Geesteswetenschappen).
The scholars participating in NISIS provide an excellent environment for a flourishing of the study of Islam and Muslim societies, in which history, philology, religious studies, and contemporary social science research receive attention. NISIS joins various academic disciplines related to the study of Islam and Muslim societies, covers a wide range of regional expertise, and by bringing together faculty from different universities creates the conditions for joint research and education initiatives.
NISIS brings together the ambitions of the nine universities and the generous financial support of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to advance interuniversity cooperation; (1) to provide high-quality training and research on Islam and Muslim societies in the Netherlands; (2) to reinforce the international profile of Dutch scholarship in Islamic studies; (3) and to link up scholarly excellence with debates in society (4).
Therefore, NISIS offers an education portal with a full overview of the available BA and MA courses within the field of Islam and Muslim studies offered at the nine participating universities in the Netherlands. It facilitates research on Islam and Muslim societies in the Netherlands via the appointment, training and supervision of PhD students. In addition, NISIS has developed a Training Programme and organises seasonal schools on themes that are fundamental to the study of Islam and Muslim societies. A research portal offers an overview of Islam-related research that is currently conducted in the Netherlands.
For more information about the NISIS Training Programme, please read more here.
For more background information about the agreement that the DLG have reached with the national research schools (united in LOGOS, the organisation of national Research Schools) regarding the training of research master’s students and PhD researchers, the division of tasks and the relevant funding, please refer to this document (in Dutch).